In a recent interview with the Healthcare Channel, Danielle Ballantine, the CEO of Your Side Australia, shared insights into the development and implementation of the care finder program that aims to address the challenges faced by vulnerable older people in accessing aged care services and connecting with other relevant supports in the community. As CEO of Your Side Australia, Danielle played a pivotal role in bringing the program to fruition.
The concept for the care finder program emerged from the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety. It highlighted the need for a dedicated workforce that could provide face-to-face support to individuals who require intensive assistance in navigating the aged care system.
The pilot program identified key groups of people who were at risk of falling through the cracks, leading to the official announcement of the care finder program in the Australian Government’s 2021-22 Budget. The program was subsequently rolled out nationwide in January 2023.
Collaborating with Primary Health Networks (PHNs) across Australia, Your Side’s care finder program operates within a framework that aims to improve access to quality care. PHNs coordinate and integrate primary healthcare services in their respective regions, working closely with local health and community care providers.
By leveraging these existing networks, the care finder program seeks to address the fragmentation and inefficiencies in the aged care system, particularly for vulnerable population groups.
Your Side’s care finders cover Northern Sydney, the Northern Beaches, Parramatta and Cumberland which includes Hornsby, Hunters Hill, Ku-ring-gai, Lane Cove, Mosman, North Sydney, Ryde, Willoughby.
“The care finders program in our region is funded by Northern Sydney PHN and Western Sydney PHN,” Danielle said.
The care finder program offers a range of services, including setting up and changing aged care services, as well as connecting individuals with other vital supports like housing, health or mental health services.
It is specifically tailored for vulnerable older people and involves personal visits to their homes or preferred meeting places.
During these visits, care finders engage in in-depth conversations to understand the individual’s unique circumstances and guide them through the necessary steps to address their needs.
Ensuring that care finders possess the requisite skills and qualifications to support vulnerable older people is a priority for Your Side. These professionals are degree qualified in disciplines such as social work, psychology or nursing. They bring extensive experience working with individuals with complex needs, possess strong community connections, and often speak multiple languages.
Equipped with a comprehensive understanding of the aged care system, care finders are committed to adopting a person-centered approach that recognises the unique journey of each individual.
One significant aspect of the care finder program is that it is a free service.
The program’s financial sustainability is currently secured through funding from Primary Health Networks, allocated by the Australian Government until 2025. As the program continues to demonstrate its effectiveness, it is hoped that ongoing funding will be secured to support vulnerable older Australians in accessing the necessary care and aging safely and confidently at home.
Danielle also shared compelling success stories from clients who have benefitted from the care finder program. One success story involved a client who had previously given up due to feeling overwhelmed by the complexities of accessing services. However, with the assistance of a care finder, the client regained hope and started receiving the help they needed.
SUCCESS STORY 1:
CARE FINDER: “We are finding a lot of people who are just lost in the system. Some have applied for funding, some have even been approved, but most are not accessing any of the supports available because they’re just too overwhelmed. We are the essential intermediary. The client asks us direct questions, we go out to get the answers and come back with the answers, to explain in simple terms.”
CLIENT: “Before you came along, I’d given up. Now I am getting the help I need to access services.”
SUCCESS STORY 2:
CARE FINDER: “I met with a woman in her late 90s. She has hearing loss, anxiety, and is isolated and overwhelmed. She was receiving basic services from outside the My Aged Care system. The care finder program with Your Side can support people to access services from both inside and outside of the Aged Care System. This woman was approved for a Level 2 Home Care Package 8 years ago (in 2015) but didn’t understand the system. She was receiving multiple letters and referral codes from My Aged Care and panicking about not knowing what to do. After she had a fall which put her in hospital, she was referred to the care finder program.
I phoned her directly to set up the first visit. In the past month, we have spent around two hours per week with the client, in her home. On the phone with My Aged Care and other services, helping her to connect and take the lead with support from care finders.”
CLIENT OUTCOME: A Home Care Package with a provider starts this week to help our wonderful 90-year-old client with shopping, clothes washing, and social connections. Care finders are now helping her apply for a Level 3 Home Care Package. This requires further assessment, and the application is proceeding.
In collaboration with local health providers and community organisations, Your Side actively works to provide support to vulnerable members of the community through the care finder program. Their extensive network includes hospitals, general practitioners, housing providers, mental health services, and aged care services, among others. By establishing strong partnerships and clear referral pathways, Your Side aims to ensure that vulnerable individuals receive the care and services they require.
Danielle Ballantine highlighted the ongoing national evaluation of the service. This evaluation aims to gauge the program’s effectiveness in connecting people with appropriate services and keeping them engaged.
Over time, Your Side hopes to gain deeper insights into the barriers faced by vulnerable individuals, such as domestic and family violence, trauma and homelessness. By addressing these barriers, the program can expand its reach and make mainstream services, including aged care, more accessible to those who need them the most.